TRADE NAME: Red maple

GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: One of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North America, its range extends from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia (Canada) west to southern Ontario (Canada), Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois; south through Missouri, eastern Oklahoma and southern Texas; and east to southern Florida. Is a common dominant in many forest types and is considered a major species, or associate, in more that 56 cover types.

WOOD VALUE: An important source of saw timber and pulpwood, but is often overlooked as a wood resource.

OTHER USES: Is characterized by showy fruits, flowers and colorful fall foliage. They were first cultivated in 1656 and many cultivars are available. Can be used to make maple syrup, although sugar maple is much more commonly used in these cases.

FAMILY: Sapindaceae.

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Can be planted onto many types of disturbed sites. It can be propagated by seed or by various vegetative techniques.

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: One of the first trees to flower in early spring. Specific flowering dates are largely dependent on weather conditions, latitude and elevation. Flowers generally appear several weeks before vegetative buds. Bud break may be affected by soil factors. Fruit matures in spring before leaf development is complete.

General botanical characteristics:

  • A deciduous tree that grows 30 to 90 feet tall and up to 4 feet in diameter.
  • The bark is smooth and gray, but darkens and becomes furrowed in narrow ridges with age.
  • Twigs are stout and shiny red to grayish brown.
  • The small, fragrant flowers are borne in slender-stalked, drooping axillary clusters.
  • The fruit is a paired, winged samara approximately 0.75 inches long. Samaras are red, pink or yellow.

Management considerations:

  • Is a conservation concern in Canada and several bur oak communities in the Plains region are considered imperiled.
  • Is tolerant of water-logged soils and flooding and is intermediately tolerant of ice damage. Is also susceptible to decay after mechanical damage.
  • Loopers, spanworms, the gall-making maple borer, maple callus borer, Columbian timber borer and various scale insects are common damaging agents.
  • Has experienced periodic declines in past decades. Although the precise pathogens have not been identified, evidence suggests that insects can weaken the trees, making them more vulnerable to decline.
  • Butt rot, trunk rot fungi, heart rot and stem diseases are common in damaged trees; even increment boring can cause result in serious decay.
  • Is resistant to herbicides and girdling. Picloram or cacodylic acid injected directly into the stems can be effective for control.
  • Is often poorly regarded as a timber species due to its susceptibility to defects and disease.
  • Usually grows rapidly after heavy cutting or high grading; crop tree release may be a low-cost management option.

Source: U.S. Forest Service (FS.Fed.US)